The Childress experiment has been fascinating to say the least so far. Can an important NBA player adjust himself to European basketball and justify a ridiculous salary, and will additional NBA players follow him over in the future?
So far, it seems way too early to judge still.
Olimpiacos head coach Giannakis was not kidding he said we did not bring Josh here to score 40, 30 or 50 points, as he told ESPN after he landed. In fact, Childress is not even scoring 20, or even 10 points per game in the Euroleaguehes at 9.8 points in 27 minutes per game, which is the lowest scoring output hes produced since his freshman year at Stanford. His field goal percentage is also at a career low thus far (since college at least), and hes shooting an incredibly poor percentage from the free throw line (53%) and 3-point range (14%) as well.
Needless to say, high-level European basketball requires quite a bit of adjusting to, even for an incredibly smart and versatile talent like Childress.
Need more evidence? Childress is so far turning the ball over on 1/4th of his possessions, far more than hes ever averaged in his career (last season 16%, the year before 14%). Clearly hes having a hard time with the incredibly crowded paint that European basketball is known for, and possibly his role on the team or the expectations, and hes getting very few calls from stingy refs to help him with that transition.
Olympiacos style of play probably isnt helping him, as they play a slow and ugly grind it out style based around pounding the ball inside incessantly to their bigs, high/low lobs between their power forwards and centers, and running pick and roll after pick and roll with the rapidly declining Theodoros Papaloukas
(about a step and a half slower than he was two years ago) trying to create mismatches leading to drop-offs to their stable of mammoth big men.
Its hard to fault them, as they have arguably the best combination of centers in European basketball between Nikola Vujcic
, Boroussis and Schortsanitis, and are capable of fouling out an entire frontcourt with the heavy artillery they bring. The problem is that they become pretty predictable eventually and very susceptible to getting beat in transition. This is probably the slowest pace Childress has played at in his career, and it obviously doesnt suit his strengths, particularly playing next to Papaloukas, a poor perimeter shooter as well, which allows defenses to sag in even more than usual. Where would they be without scoring machine and lightning in a bottle Lynn Greer
(simply outstanding as a shooter/scorer) is anyones guess.
Offensively, most of Childress production comes in transition and off quick left-handed drives off isolation plays in the half-court, as well as some garbage baskets thanks to his hustle and smarts. His athleticism stands out in an incredible way at this level, resulting in highlight-reel caliber finishes every time he steps out on the court. Despite his poor assist to turnover ratio, Childress is clearly not a selfish player, doing his absolute best to fit in with his teammates, who seem to really enjoy playing with him based off what we could see in person and in the extensive game-film we took in.
The biggest problem Childress has faced is with his shooting stroke, which has looked very poor thus far. His mechanics have always been about as awkward as youll find (think of a cross between Shawn Marion
and Kevin Martin
), but in the NBA he made shots at an outstanding rate both from the field (57% FG in 07-08outrageous for a swingman) and beyond the arc (a respectable 37% on limited attempts in 07-08).
Even in college he made 1.5 3-pointers per game as both a sophomore and junior, but that just hasnt been the case at all in Greece, though, which is surprising considering that the European 3-point line is substantially closer than in the NBA. NBA players faced the same exact problem in International play competing with Team USA, so its a bit disappointing that the first great export the NBA sends the Euroleague ends up getting tagged with the dreaded American athlete who cant shoot label.
In this particular game, Childress definitely silenced the crowd, pulling up off the dribble for a clutch jumper from 18-feet with 48 seconds left in regulation to put Olympiacos up by two points, which surely will help silence his growing number of critics, for at least another week.
After all, there is a reason why Childress is leading this team in minutes played, and not really by a small margin. Hes clearly their best defender, showing great size for the wing position, outstanding length, and terrific lateral quickness. Hes also exceptionally smart, tough and crafty, doing a great job contesting shots and playing with a very high level of focus and intensitywhich Coach Giannakis obviously loves. Hes also rebounding the ball extremely well, actually ranking second besides the super productive Yiannis Bouroussis
(who by the way is averaging an ungodly 25.5 points and 17 rebounds per game on 59% shooting per-40 minutes, and is an NBA player all day long like weve been screaming from the hills about for years now).
As Childress continues to learn the European game, hell very likely become a more productive and efficient player. This is a totally new brand of basketball hes learning, and for some players it takes years to fully master. There is a reason after all why the ex-NBA tag doesnt hold anywhere near the same appeal it used to in high-level Europe a few years agoand Childress obviously isnt helping with that.
The reason Olympiacos can afford to let Childress be a role-player, and take his time figuring things out, despite being far and away the highest paid player in Europe, is because of the quality they sport throughout their roster. A look through the distribution of minutes between the two teams rotations playing tonight gives us a great deal of insight into the difference between the haves and the have-nots of European basketball. Olympiacos ended up using 12 players in this game, while Le Mans used 8. On the season, Olympiacos has 10 players who are averaging anywhere from 13 ½ to 27 minutes per game at most, while Le Mans has just 7 key players, averaging between 19.4 and 38.4 minutes.